A reporter asked a stray question, and Obama blew all the careful planning of his staff. He varied from his initial remarks, creating a new narrative for a story the White House does not want to linger. Was he adding an asterisk to his remarks, as the Washington Post put it? Was it a recalibration, as the New York Times put it? In short, this is a communications disaster. The White House had to release a statement clarifying the new statement, or restatement, or whatever.
The president's opponents, who had been pushing the mosque issue for weeks as a way to get Democrats on the wrong side of the polls in an election year, came out celebrating. Liz Cheney, who can diminish just about any nuanced thought into a barbed cable news talking point, emailed Politico's Mike Allen from her iPhone. "I guess President Obama was for the mosque before he was against it. You can quote me," went the message.
You can sense the creative tension between the lines for reporters like Scherer. They want their access to top officials, and yet in the Obama era, they very much want those top officials to achieve their "perfect" media calibrations, and not provide grist to nuance-diminishing conservative attack dogs.
They think like campaign operatives -- oh, shoot, Obama shouldn't have talked to Ed Henry besides the jokes about whether he'd swim shirtless! Henry's question was not a hardball, just an invitation for further reflection on the mosque controversy.
Scherer added that a previous Obama gaffe murdered the chances for "comprehensive" immigration amnesty: